Lesson 1

Preface

In 1998 and 2005 two women were executed in the state of Texas for murder.

Condemned. No reprieve. Guilty as charged. No mercy. None deserved.
Justice was served.

When you commit a crime and you stand before the Judge who speaks words of death into your life, and there is nothing you can do but spend years appealing for retesting, retrials, and finally commutation and mercy, and nothing works, can you imagine the helpless feeling? The regret? The sorrow? The pain? The fear? The rage?

Why am I starting this study talking about two death row inmates who according to the State of Texas received justice? I am trying to give us a sense of what it is like to receive such final, irrevocable condemnation in this life, because our justice system is but a shadow of the reality of what will happen when Jesus returns one day and every person born on planet earth will stand before the Judge of all the world and be found guilty. It won’t matter what they have done, or not done, said or not said, whether they did good deeds or were pickaxe murderers; they are guilty. They are condemned.

Condemned. No reprieve. No retrial.

At the end, all that is left for them is justified punishment. Jesus said, “Whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
Both women, according to the State of Texas, took the life of another human being in cold blood. They were guilty and rightly condemned to death. Both professed Christianity while in prison, during those long years of waiting on death row. So, believing their professions that they were truly regenerated and received repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, what will happen when they stand in the Higher Court before the Righteous Judge?

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).

Not even for our two executed murders in Texas?

Not even for them if they are children of God.

We read about another murderer in the New Testament, the author of Romans, the Apostle Paul. I know this is a lot of reading, but it’s worth it to be better acquainted with the author of Romans.

Read: Acts 7:58; Acts 9:1-19; 22:1-5; 26:4-20; Gal. 1:13-14; Phil. 3:2-6; 1Tim. 1:12-15; 1Cor 15:9

We first hear of Paul, called Saul before his conversion, at the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7. The witnesses trusted him with their clothes. He was part of the mob stoning a powerful and important witness for Christ. God used Stephen’s stoning to scatter His church out of Jerusalem and into Judea and Samaria and from there to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

Acts 8 starts with a blaring statement of Saul’s heart, “And Saul approved of his execution”.
Luke is giving us an historical glimpse of the pre-Christ man who God used to establish Christianity in the world through writing most of the New Testament, doing ground-breaking missions work, and church planting. Luke knows Acts 9 is coming and the great persecutor of Christians will become one of the most radically important Christians in history.

Paul sets out for Damascus as a fire-breathing dragon, but arrives as a sheep to be slaughtered (Romans 8:36). I am sure I can safely say your conversion wasn’t as dramatic as Paul’s, but it was nevertheless the same miracle. When God meets us on the road to death, He changes our hearts, opens our eyes and ears to hear and see Jesus as the treasure He is, breathes life into us, and grants us repentance and faith. That is what happened to Paul and that is what happened to you and me, if indeed the Spirit of Christ lives in us.

At the time Paul (Saul) set off for Damascus, he probably had a pretty good life. He was about 30 and most likely already a member of the Sanhedrin. He was on a career fast-track. Marriage, family, and a comfortable life persecuting religious cults were on his horizon. But, then God showed up. Sometime later Paul said he counted all that rubbish for the “surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:7-11).

So, Paul is redeemed by the Savior and given his mission. He uses his testimony, as you have read in the above verses, as a powerful means of evangelism. He tells it to “Brothers and fathers” in Acts22:1, the mob trying to kill him. In Acts 26, he tells it to King Agrippa and his wife Bernice, military tribunes, and the prominent men of Caesarea. He wrote it to the Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, and to Timothy. He edits it, shortening or lengthening according to the circumstances and audience. And so should we. Our testimony of our meeting King Jesus is the most powerful story we have to tell. Tell it often. Tell it with joy and thanksgiving.

In summary, as you read the dazzling graced filled truths of Romans 8, remember the author’s story. If anyone wrestled with not feeling condemned it must have been Paul. He called himself the foremost of sinners (1Tim. 1:15). During the times that we are overwhelmed with the grace God has showered on us, our sins seem all the more sinful and we can succumb to the lie of the enemy that we are to sinful to be God’s child.

Not true!

Recite to yourself Romans 8:1, “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Now that we know something about the author of Romans 8, next time we dig into verse 1.

You are loved

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